April 4th Is the Birthday of Okinawa Prefecture
Okinawa Prefecture is known as one of the most popular resort areas in Japan. It has a unique atmosphere which is distinctly different from that of the rest of Japan in terms of language, cuisine, arts, etc.
Ryukyu Kingdom was ruled by the Sho kings from the early 15th century until its incorporation into the Empire of Japan as Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. The kingdom was special in that they had no standing army and survived by trade and diplomacy alone. The area they were situated in was quite unsettled but they managed to establish strong trading routes stretching from Siberia to Siam.
An independent kingdom and tributary state to China for several centuries, the Ryukyu Islands came under control of the Satsuma domain (current Kagoshima Prefecture) in the 17th century. The Sho family continued to reign for 270 more years, even after their independence was gone. Satsuma still allowed the Ryukyu Kingdom to find itself in a period of “dual subordination” to Japan and China. The Ryukyu Kingdom was still paying tribute to China, and during Japan’s 250 years of isolation, the kingdom was Japan’s main avenue of international trade.
As Japan was moving into the era of a new modern state after the end of isolation, in 1871, the new Meiji government abolished the han (domain) system, and on April 4 in 1879, a proclamation was issued officially abolishing the Ryukyu domain and establishing Okinawa Prefecture, which is said to be the origin of the birth of Okinawa Prefecture.
Celebrate with Awamori
Awamori is an alcoholic beverage indigenous and unique to Okinawa, Japan. It is made from long grain indica rice, and is not a direct product of brewing (like sake) but of distillation (similar to shochu).
Awamori owes its existence to Okinawa’s trading history. The technique of distilling reached Okinawa from Thailand in the 15th century, when Okinawa was as a major trading intermediary between Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. All awamori is made from Thai rice. The Okinawans refined the distillation process, incorporating techniques from nearby countries, making it more suitable for the subtropical climate and incorporating the unique local black koji mold.
The awamori we recommend is from Shinzato Shuzo, which is said to be the oldest existing Okinawan distillery, inheriting traditional method and spirit from 170 years ago. Ryukyu Awamori Kariyushi has a refreshing aroma and crisp taste, but is also rich in flavor and slightly sweet, making it popular among women and Awamori connoisseurs of all ages. The name “Kariyushi” is Okinawan dialect meaning “call for celebration”, and we sure think this awamori is great for celebrating!